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From the archives

Untying the Knot

A new book untangles historical confusion and contemporary anxieties about marriage

Thou Art Anxious

Decisions, decisions

Keep in Touch

Why digital connections can’t sustain health, happiness or politics

James Brooke-Smith

James Brooke-Smith is a literary critic and cultural historian at the University of Ottawa. His September 2019 piece for the magazine, “Meritocracy and Its Discontents,” was included in Best Canadian Essays 2020.

Articles by
James Brooke-Smith

Where’s Johnny?

On the lost art of public conversation May 2023
When a conversation becomes a monologue, poked along with tiny cattle-prod questions, it isn’t a conversation any more. — Barbara Walters The black and white footage begins with a medium profile shot of the subject, who sits in an executive-style leather chair. A female voice asks a question from off-screen to the left: “Mr. McLuhan, do you like TV?” As the University of Toronto professor starts to…

Meritocracy and Its Discontents

The lessons of an unequal opportunity system September 2019
What do Justin Trudeau, Donald Trump, Mark Zuckerberg, and Elon Musk have in common, other than being powerful white men? They have all defended their hiring choices on grounds of meritocracy. In 2017, Trump claimed he had selected his overwhelmingly white, male cabinet entirely based on talent. Trudeau recently defended the appointment of six federal judges in New Brunswick with close ties to the Liberal Party as “merit-based.” Musk has repeatedly cast his…